A JUDGE-LED initiative in courts across the south of Scotland that has proved to be successful in reducing the backlog of summary court cases caused by the coronavirus pandemic has extended to Airdrie.
Currently, many sheriff court cases scheduled for trial resolve by an agreed guilty plea between the prosecutor and the defence agent.
However, this often takes place on the day that the trial is due to start, which means that witnesses attend unnecessarily and a slot in the court programme is used, preventing another case from proceeding to trial.
Sheriff Principal Aisha Anwar has now facilitated weekly court surgeries – including one in Airdrie – initially piloted at Hamilton Sheriff Court which enable physically distanced discussion between the defence and the prosecution to resolve cases at an earlier stage.
The initiative has proven successful with almost 90 per cent of cases discussed resolving early, freeing up space in the court programme for significantly more cases to proceed to trial.
Sheriff Principal Anwar said: “This excellent collaborative effort across the justice sector is making significant inroads into the backlog of trials caused by the pandemic and will increase court capacity.
“Not only are the surgeries increasing the efficiency of the courts, but they are also preventing witnesses and complainers from attending unnecessarily. It is a positive outcome for all involved.”
Les Brown, procurator fiscal for South Strathclyde, added: “This initiative has encouraged better and earlier communication between the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and our criminal justice partners.
“And it is shortening the journey time for victims and witnesses.”